“..no one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”
― Julia Child (culinary icon, OSS agent)
My tomatillos finally ripened. The bright yellow star flowers that delighted all manner of bee and butterfly bent their heads into little purses to hold tangy yet oddly sweet purple and green fruit. Unknowingly, I had planted a variety that grew marbles rather than usual golf ball-sized fruit. Therefore, while the diminutive size didn’t make them any less tasty, their little husks did litter the bed and those of my neighbors at the community garden (Sorry, Jim!). At first, I was content to just pop the little gems in my mouth or load them into a salad, but my beloved had other ideas.
He knows how to make salsa verde.
And he was ready to teach me.
So on a sunny Saturday morning, after a few “What do you mean add as much as I want? There isn’t a measurement?” and a slight panic when I felt that I had over-peppered, my beloved’s reassurance that I was doing just fine helped me find my confidence. And now I make a pretty darn good salsa.
Cleaned and vigorously rinsed tomatillos (I had about 3 ½ cups)
1 small yellow onion quartered
fresh jalapeño pepper (I wanted a milder salsa, so I used ½
of a small one and removed the seeds)
fresh cilantro leaves (for me: 3 tablespoons, I took them
off the stalk to avoid strings)
whole cloves of garlic (for me 3)
oregano (fresh if possible, I have used both)
In a pan of water (about 3-4 cups), add the whole tomatillos, onion, jalapeño, a tablespoon of the cilantro, and the garlic. Over medium heat, simmer until the tomatillos soften. They will lighten in color. When ready, remove from the heat, but do not throw away the water. Use a slotted spoon to put the solids into a blender. Then add about a cup or so of water to the blender. Add the spices and the remainder of the fresh cilantro (if you prefer a less intense cilantro flavor, do not add any fresh but pre-cook all of the cilantro instead). Blend. Now is the fun part, adjust the taste and viscosity of the salsa. It’s your preference. I used generous pinches of everything except the cloves, which can overpower everything. With cloves, start with “a smidge”—that’s less than a pinch—to keep this flavor in the background. Add more of the liquid to thin the sauce to your desire. Thin is nice when pouring over dishes, but the thick is great for dipping chips.
For me, the lesson was a success. By the next week, I was happily making another batch on my own. And I was very delighted when my beloved gave me his seal of approval by pouring the sauce over his eggs and finishing every morsel.